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Trump plans free COVID-19 vaccine for Medicare, Medicaid recipients

President Trump plans to announce an initiative to issue early vaccines for COVID-19 free of cost to recipients of Medicare and Medicaid, a report said on Monday.

The administration is expected to announce a plan to cover vaccines that receive emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, according to Politico.

The change could help millions receive a coronavirus vaccine for free.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to make an announcement about the plan on Tuesday or Wednesday, the newspaper said.

The administration is “working to ensure that no American has to pay for the vaccine,” one official told the outlet.

A number of vaccines are in production. A vaccine being developed by scientists at Oxford University and drugmaker AstraZeneca is considered the likeliest candidate to be used first.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said experts will know “by the end of November, the beginning of December” whether a coronavirus vaccine is safe and effective. Fauci, however, added that it won’t be widely available until next year.

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Laptops, other equipment stolen from Conan O’Brien’s talk show set

Conan O’Brien said Monday that the set of his late-night talk show was burglarized in Los Angeles.

The crew of the “Conan” show realized earlier Monday that a few laptops and a clapperboard — a simple filmmaking device usually used to mark scenes and takes — were missing from their temporary set at Largo at the Coronet Theater in West Hollywood.

“We come to this theater, because we thought theaters are in trouble, let’s revive a theater, let’s keep it going,” O’Brien, who in July transitioned from taping at home to the new location, said during his Monday night show.

“Seemed like a nice thing to do … what happens? We get here this morning and we find out that someone broke into our little theater and took some of our equipment,” the host said.

O’Brien joked that he understood why thieves would target laptops, but had a hard time wrapping his head around why somebody would take a clapperboard — also known as a slate.

“What’s a robber gonna do with this thing,” he said referring to the film-making tool. “It’s what kids use, it’s what 16-year-olds use to make a student film.”

“They took that, that’s the lowest. I can’t think of anything lower.”

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Protests erupt in Philly after police fatally shoot armed black man

At least one police officer was run over by a truck in Philadelphia as protesters stormed the streets Monday night in response to a fatal police shooting earlier in the day.

The officer who was struck can be seen in footage on social media as a black truck swerves into a group of officers lined across the street to protect against oncoming demonstrators, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The condition of the officer was not immediately clear.

The unruly demonstrations erupted over the death of Water Wallace, who was shot by police after refusing to drop a knife at about 4 p.m.

Footage posted to Twitter by Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Samantha Melamed shows protesters surrounding dumpster and police car fires.

The newspaper reported that some protesters also chucked objects, including bricks, at cops in riot gear during a tense standoff at the police district headquarters.

Looting was also reported at several stores in the city.

Video of the fatal encounter from earlier Monday shows Wallace walking towards officers who have their guns drawn at him.

Witnesses told the Inquirer that Wallace was carrying a knife but did not lunge at the officers.

Two officers opened fire on Wallace. His father, Walter Wallace Sr. said his son was shot 10 times.

The officers’ names were not immediately released. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw said an investigation is underway.

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More than 20 coronavirus cases traced to Trump rallies in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Health said that 23 cases of coronavirus have been linked back to campaign events in the state for President Trump, a report said Monday.

The department said that the infections were traced to events in Bemidji, Minneapolis and Duluth, according to Axios.

At least 16 cases, which include two patients who are currently hospitalized, were traced to a Sept. 18 campaign rally in Bemidji featuring President Trump, a spokesperson for the health department told the outlet.

“There’s a lot of people,” Trump said as he took the stage in Bemidji. “That’s a big group of people, this is on fast notice too. Thank you.”

Three cases were tied to a “Cops for Trump” event attended by Vice President Mike Pence and Ivanka Trump on Sept. 24 in Minneapolis. The four additional cases were traced to a Trump rally in Duluth on Sept. 30.

In addition, four coronavirus cases were linked to a Trump counter-protest in Bemidji on Sept. 18 and one case has been linked to Joe Biden campaign stop in Duluth on Sept. 18.

A spokesperson for the Trump campaign said that they take “strong precautions for our campaign events, requiring every attendee to have their temperature checked, be provided a mask they’re instructed to wear, and ensuring access to plenty of hand sanitizer.”

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Utility says its equipment may have sparked California blaze

LOS ANGELES — Southern California Edison said its equipment may have sparked a fast-moving wildfire that forced evacuation orders for some 100,000 people and seriously injured two firefighters on Monday as powerful winds across the state prompted power to be cut to hundreds of thousands to prevent just such a possibility.

A smoky fire exploded in size to over 11 square miles (29 square kilometers) after breaking out around dawn in Orange County, south of Los Angeles. Gusts pushed flames along brushy ridges in Silverado Canyon and near houses in the sprawling city of Irvine, home to about 280,000 residents. There was no containment.

Two firefighters, one 26 and the other 31 years old, were critically injured while battling the blaze, according to the county’s Fire Authority, which didn’t provide details on how the injuries occurred. They each suffered second- and third-degree burns over large portions of their bodies and were intubated at a hospital, officials said.

In a report to the state Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison said it was investigating whether its electrical equipment caused the blaze. The brief report said it appeared that a “lashing wire” that tied a telecommunications line to a support cable may have struck a 12,000-volt conducting line above it, and an investigation was under way.

The report came as SCE shut off power to some 38,000 homes and businesses in five counties — including the fire areas — as a safety precuation against gusts knocking down equipment or hurling tree branches or other vegetation into power lines. However, the utility had reduced that to under 12,000 as winds eased temporarily Monday night.

Firefighters with Cal Fire are enveloped in smoke as fire from the Green Fire passes by near homes on Hidden Glen Lane and Hidden Hills Road in Yorba Linda
Firefighters with Cal Fire are enveloped in smoke as fire from the Green Fire passes by near homes on Hidden Glen Lane and Hidden Hills Road in Yorba LindaAP

More than 90,000 people in the fire area were under evacuation orders. Nearby, a fire in the Yorba Linda area had grown to nearly 4.7 square miles (12.2 square kilometers) and prompted the evacuation of at least 10,000 people, officials said.

At the Irvine-area fire, Kelsey Brewer and her three roommates decided to leave their townhouse before the evacuation order came in. The question was where to go in the pandemic. They decided on the home of her girlfriend’s mother, who has ample space and lives alone.

“We literally talked about it this morning,” Brewer said, adding that she feels lucky to have a safe place to go. “We can only imagine how screwed everyone else feels. There’s nowhere you can go to feel safe.”

Helicopters dropping water and fire retardant were grounded for much of the afternoon because strong winds made it unsafe to fly. However, a large air tanker and other aircraft began making drops again several hours before sunset.

In the northern part of the state, Pacific Gas & Electric began restoring power to some of the 350,000 customers — an estimated 1 million people — in 34 counties that were left in the dark Sunday because of some of the fiercest winds of the fire season.

PG&E said it had restored power to nearly 100,000 customers as winds eased in some areas, with electricity to be back on at the other homes and buildings by Tuesday night after crews make air and ground inspections to make repairs and ensure it’s safe.

A dozen reports of damage had been received, PG&E said.

However, the fire threat was far from over in many parts of PG&E’s vast service area.

“We’re already starting to see winds pick back up,” hitting 50 mph (80.4 kph) in some regions with bone-dry humidity leading to extreme fire danger Monday evening, said Scott Strenfel, PG&E’s head of meteorology.

The winds were expected to calm Monday night before renewing again Tuesday, the National Weather Service warned. Officials extended a red flag extreme fire danger warning through 5 p.m. Tuesday for the region’s eastern and northern mountainous areas.

Firefighter Tylor Gilbert puts out hotspots while battling the Silverado Fire
Firefighter Tylor Gilbert puts out hotspots while battling the Silverado FireAP

The safety shut-offs “probably did prevent dangerous fires last night. It’s almost impossible to imagine that winds of this magnitude would not have sparked major conflagrations in years past,” Daniel Swain, a climate scientist with UCLA and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, said on Twitter.

A second round of gusts is predicted to sweep through the same areas Monday night,

Scientists have said climate change has made California much drier, meaning trees and other plants are more flammable. October and November are traditionally the worst months for fires, but already this year 8,600 wildfires in the state have scorched a record 6,400 square miles (16,600 square kilometers) and destroyed about 9,200 homes, businesses and other buildings. There have been 31 deaths.

The electricity shutdowns marked the fifth time this year that Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation’s largest utility, has cut power to customers to reduce the risk of downed or fouled power lines or other equipment that could ignite blazes amid bone-dry weather conditions and gusty winds.

The conditions could equal those during devastating fires in California’s wine country in 2017 and last year’s Kincade Fire that devastated Sonoma County north of San Francisco last October, the National Weather Service said. Fire officials said PG&E transmission lines sparked that fire, which destroyed hundreds of homes and caused nearly 100,000 people to flee.

Many of this year’s devastating fires were started by thousands of dry lightning strikes, but some remain under investigation for potential electrical causes. While the biggest fires in California have been fully or significantly contained, more than 5,000 firefighters remain committed to 20 blazes, state fire officials said.

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Pennsylvania teen watching sunset fatally shot, possibly by hunter

An 18-year-old man was shot dead while watching the sunset with his girlfriend in a Pennsylvania park — possibly by a hunter who was spotted nearby at the time, authorities said Monday.

Jason Kutt was sitting at the edge of the lake in Nockamixon State Park at around 5:15 p.m. Saturday when he was struck once in the back of the neck, Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub said at a press conference.

“They were just a young couple with their whole lives ahead of them trying to enjoy a peaceful sunset,” Weintraub said.

Kutt’s girlfriend told authorities she saw a man dressed in bright orange hunting gear standing behind a gate down the road, about 550 feet away, following the shooting.

“I believe this was either just a tragic accident or it could be a hunter who wasn’t potentially hunting the way they were supposed to,” Weintraub said.

Hunting was allowed at the state park on the day Kutt was shot, authorities said.

Cops, including a K9 unit and a State Police helicopter, scoured the area and didn’t find any suspects for the shooting.

Kutt, a recent high school graduate from the Philadelphia suburb of Sellersville, was rushed to an area hospital, where he was pronounced dead on Monday.

“We don’t have any suspects. We don’t even know if a crime has been committed yet,” Weintraub said.

He urged any hunters or visitors who were at the park between 5 and 6 p.m. Saturday, or anyone who knows of someone who might have been hunting at there that day, to contact Bucks County detectives.

“This was a young kid with his whole life ahead of him. He has no apparent enemies, had done nothing wrong, had done nothing to incur any wrath from anyone,” Weintraub said.

“This is just a terrible tragedy and right not we’re trying to find out who was at the other end of this gun and whether a crime has been committed.”

The Kutt family released a statement on Facebook Monday announcing Jason’s death and asking anyone with information relating to the investigation to come forward.

“He loved playing his guitars, video games, and taking walks in nature to take amazing pictures and spending time with his girlfriend,” the statement read.

“Please remember to hug your loved ones because tomorrow is never promised.”

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Cowboys’ Mike Nolan pauses news conference after hot-sauce mishap

The Cowboys’ struggles now include condiments.

Dallas defensive coordinator Mike Nolan had to pause his Monday Zoom news conference with reporters because he said he had Tabasco sauce on his finger and rubbed it in his eye, causing it to burn. The incident occurred with Nolan answering a question about pass-rusher DeMarcus Lawrence.

“He’s been active every week as far as, I think, disrupting the quarterback. He’s escaped several times to do that,” Nolan said. “Obviously, the frustration for him as well is — look, it’s when he misses them. Whoop, excuse me. I’ve got something in my eye. Just had some Tabasco on my finger, and it went in my eye. That wasn’t good. Ugh. Terrible, geez. I’m sorry.”

The 61-year-old Nolan was away from the call for several minutes and let everyone know he was OK upon returning.

“My eye feels a lot better,” Nolan said. “But it was burning.”

Cowboys have been feeling some pain in the field as well. Jerry Jones’s team is 2-5 off a demoralizing 25-3 loss to the Washington Football Team on Sunday. Quarterback Andy Dalton was knocked out of the game with a concussion and Dallas has already lost starter Dak Prescott for the season to a right ankle fracture.

Nolan, who is in his first season with the team under head coach Mike McCarthy, has seen his defense struggle mightily. Dallas is allowing a league-worst 34.7 points per game and 408.1 yards per game, sixth-worst in the league.

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Nets eye intriguing sleeper Isaiah Joe in 2020 NBA Draft

With the draft approaching, a common thread is the Nets having eyed some of the best shooters in this class. Isaiah Joe is yet another potential floor spacer.

Despite an injury-interrupted campaign, Joe still managed to lead the SEC in 3-pointers both this past season and over the last two years (207). For a Nets team in danger of losing another Joe — former NBA 3-point champ Joe Harris — in free agency, the Arkansas sophomore is an intriguing sleeper.

The Nets have the 19th and 55th picks, while Joe has been projected between 34 and 38 in four mock drafts over the past two weeks. He’s talked with both the Knicks and Nets, the former devoid of shooting and the latter looking for both insurance against Harris and complements for Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

“Right off the bat my shooting means a lot to a team, being able to stretch the floor, keep moving, space out and occupy a defender. Right off the bat that’s something a team can utilize from me,” Joe said via Zoom. “And with my defensive IQ, I feel like I’m in the right spot all the time, take charges.

“Right now one of the biggest things is putting on weight and muscle. I’m continually working on my ballhandling; I’m a capable ballhandler, so if a team needs me to bring the ball up, I can do that. But at the end of the day I keep the main thing the main thing; I want to be the best shooter on the floor at all times.”

Joe’s stats — and draft stock — don’t match up with his stroke, partly due to injury.

Isaiah Joe
Isaiah JoeAP

As a freshman, Joe hit a torrid 41.4 percent from behind the arc on eight attempts a game. And this season he averaged 18.2 points as one of the top perimeter defenders in the country through the first 15 games, while averaging 20.4 points and 41.2 percent from deep in his first three SEC tilts before hurting his right knee.

Joe managed to limp through the injury, but averaged just 9.2 points on 27.7 percent shooting from deep in five of the next six tilts — including suffering the first scoreless game of his career. His explosion and defensive mobility took a hit as well, before eventually breaking down and having arthroscopic surgery.

“The injury definitely happened and my numbers dropped during that time,” Joe said. “During those five or six games I was injured my numbers did plummet; but my coach [Eric Musselman] and team felt it was best for me to be out the court occupying a defender, stretching the floor, which I did.

“Some of the teams, they know about the injury and took that into view. But some I had to explain it to, the games I played healthy versus some I played injured. I think after explaining it to them, I think they got a better eye on things.”

Upon returning to the lineup, Joe did average 20 points and get back to playing stout defense. And while his shot creation off the dribble was among the best in the country — 97th and 88th percentile over the past two years — he’s been working in Arkansas with a trainer set up by agent Mike Conley Sr. on situations like catch-and-shoot looks, coming off screens, and arguably most important, his frame.

“One of my biggest things is putting on weight and muscle, which I am during this time,” said Joe, who arrived at Arkansas spreading just 167 pounds across his willowy 6-foot-5 frame. This past season he was listed at 175 pounds and is up to 180, his draft stock rising as well.

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Senate votes Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court

The Republican-held Senate on Monday evening voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett as the newest justice to the Supreme Court, giving President Trump his third appointment to the high court just a week before the Nov. 3 election.

Barrett, 48, will be sworn in by Justice Clarence Thomas at the White House. She will be the fifth female justice in the court’s history.

Barrett replaces liberal icon Ruth Bader Ginsburg and conservatives believe she will tilt the ideological balance of the bench for decades — infuriating Democrats.

Trump trumpeted the victory hours earlier during a rally in Martinsburg, Penn., calling Barrett “one of our nation’s most brilliant legal minds.”

“She will defend our rights, our liberties and our God given freedoms,” Trump said. “We were all watching in great amusement as she was so-called grilled by the opposition. That was easy.”

Trump added: “I’m glad she’s not running for president. I’d much rather go against sleepy Joe [Biden].”

Barrett, previously a judge on the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, is a favorite among religious conservatives and will be the seventh Catholic on the nine-person court.

The Indiana resident is the first mother on the court with minor children. Her seven children — four girls and three boys — range from age 8 to 19. Two of her children were adopted from Haiti.

Barrett will begin hearing cases immediately, with the next scheduled oral arguments on Nov. 2.

Controversial cases going before the court include Texas v. California on Nov. 10, through which the court may strike down the rump of Obamacare following the 2017 repeal of the law’s mandate forcing individuals to purchase private health insurance.

Democrats claimed during Barrett’s confirmation hearings that she was being confirmed quickly so she could hear that case and help gut the law’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions. The issue is an election-year vulnerability for Republicans, but Trump says he would resurrect those protections if the law is struck down.

Other looming cases include a dispute the Supreme Court will hear Nov. 4 about whether a Catholic organization that receives taxpayer funds can choose not to place children with same-sex couples.

On Dec. 2, Barrett will hear arguments from House Democrats who want access to grand jury notes and redacted portions of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia report, which found no evidence Trump colluded with Russia.

The court also agreed to hear cases in its upcoming term on Trump’s 2019 diversion of military funds to build the US-Mexico border wall, and on the Trump administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that requires most asylum seekers from Central America to remain in Mexico while their requests are considered.

The Supreme Court additionally may play a role in the election in response to lawsuits over the widespread use of mail-in ballots amid the COVID-19 pandemic, in a possible redux of Bush v. Gore,  when justices voted five-four in 2000 to end a recount of ballots in Florida, effectively handing victory to Republican George W. Bush.

Barrett is Trump’s third confirmed justice in four years in office. All other presidents since Ronald Reagan have had just two justices, even over eight years.

Ginsburg, 87, died unexpectedly last month after more than two decades of intermittent cancer treatments.

Collins is in a tight re-election race and said Sunday she opposed Barrett to be “fair and consistent” after Republicans blocked former President Barack Obama’s election-year nomination of Merrick Garland.

Trump said during his Pennsylvania campaign trip that Barrett’s swearing-in event would be small — after many attendees of Barrett’s Sept. 26 nomination celebration in the Rose Garden, including Trump, caught COVID-19.

“No, not a large event. Just a very nice event,” Trump said.

Barrett emerged unscathed from Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. The top Democrat on the committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, enraged fellow Democrats by saying it was “one of the best set of hearings that I have participated in.”

But many Democrats feel cheated out of their own opportunity to replace conservative Justice Antonin Scalia in 2016, when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to hold a vote on Garland, saying voters should decide. Republicans note the Senate and presidency were held by different parties at the time.

Democrats were powerless to do more than gripe and claim hypocrisy. No Democrat showed up to Barrett’s committee confirmation vote last week.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) fumed that Republicans were guilty of “the partisan theft of two seats,” using “absurd and obnoxious” justifications and a “hypocritical double standard.”

Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) gave an impassioned Senate floor speech Monday, saying Trump wanted Barrett confirmed to re-criminalize abortion, torpedo Obamacare and “hand him the election.”

“Simply put, Judge Barrett as Justice Barrett, I am convinced, will open a new chapter of conservative judicial activism unlike anything we’ve seen,” Coons said.

McConnell defended the confirmation vote and called Barrett “a woman of unparalleled intellect.”

“The process comports entirely with the Constitution. We don’t have any doubt, do we, that if the shoe was on the other foot they’d be confirming,” the Republican leader said.

McConnell added about Democrats: “How many times have we heard that President Trump won’t accept outcomes he does not like? Well, they’re flunking that very test right before our eyes… The reason this outcome came about is because we had a series of successful elections.”

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Stream It or Skip It?

Serious Men is a Netflix India film aiming to satirize and comment on class division. It adapts Manu Joseph’s acclaimed novel of the same name, about a man from a Mumbai chawl who concocts an improbable, and quite rickety, scheme to rise out of poverty and overcome systemic oppression. The movie is steeped in the details of Indian sociological culture, so whether it’ll be relevant to international audiences remains to be seen.

SERIOUS MEN: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?

The Gist: Ayyan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) has a name for the people he works under at the National Institute for Fundamental Research: “Serious men.” They’re upper-class intellectuals born several steps ahead of working-class people like Ayyan. He’s the personal assistant to Arvind (Nassar), a scientist whose theory that alien microbes in Earth’s stratosphere are the original source of life on the surface seems — well, I think “dubious” is the appropriate word to describe it? Ayyan thinks so too, and expresses his contempt for his superiors passive-aggressively, which is a nice way of saying that they end up calling each other names a lot, like schoolchildren, except they’re adults, so it’s abusive.

Ayyan is weary of his lot in life. He’s married to the rock-solid Oja (Indira Tawari); they’re squatting poolside at a fancy hotel, and just as they’re about to be kicked out, she goes into labor and has the baby as guests hold up privacy towels. So which caste was little Adi (Aakshath Das) born into? He took his first breath in upper-crust air.

We jump to when Adi is 11. He has a hearing aid, which comes in handy when his father feeds him scientific factoids during speeches to adoring crowds. What? Yes: Ayyan sees the kid as the family’s ticket out of their cramped, windowless one-room apartment, so he’s propped him up as a scientific genius prodigy by helping him cheat on tests and memorize impressive scientific jib-jab about the universe. Adi becomes famous for his eloquent allocution and ability to quickly calculate difficult math problems, with the answers spoken directly into his ear by his father, of course. The boy is a hero of the chawl, and soon is recruited to be the face of a political marketing campaign for a massive urban renewal housing project, which will net Ayyan and his family a new home. If the ruse holds together, which seems — well, I think “improbable” is the appropriate word to describe it.

Serious Man still
Photo: Netflix

What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: With its frequently amusing story about an almost-justified, morally fraught rebellion against class disparity, Serious Men is kind of an Indian version of Parasite.

Performance Worth Watching: Playing a man broiling with discontent beneath a fairly stoic facade, Siddiqui characterization is a perfectly balanced blend of sly comedy and strong drama, inspiring from us both pathos and enmity. Ayyan is a very complex man.

Memorable Dialogue: “There is no room for microbes in his tiny brain.” — Ayyan, in voiceover, bitterly assesses the intelligence of an upper-class minister

Sex and Skin: A PG-13-ish instance of under-the-covers marital relations.

Our Take: Any commentary on the subtleties of the Indian caste system will be lost on most of us who aren’t familiar with its history. But the broader idea, addressing how the have-nots want what the haves have, is universal. Ayyan’s scheme is far-fetched, and it’s absolutely an instance of exploitation and flat-out awful parenting — but it also ends up inspiring hope among a historically oppressed people. As Ayyan seeks to plug the inevitable leaks in his sham, he caps any anxiety beneath his steely reserve, nonverbally asserting that his selfishness is also for the greater good. There are two sides to this moral coin, both fraught with complexity.

At nearly two hours, Serious Men is too leisurely in pace, although any saggy moments are balanced by subtle, highly entertaining narrative spikes, and the conclusion and denouement are artful and poignant. Director Sudhir Mishra excels at creating a sense of space and setting to inform themes — the cushy interiors of academia, the spacious government offices and the grungy and cramped chawl apartments, where rats casually mingle in the halls. But he’s also a master of tone, finding the sweet spot between sly satire and muscular drama.

Our Call: STREAM IT. Serious Men is a smart, witty gem. You’ll be tempted to watch it a second time to fully appreciate its tonal nuance and Siddiqui’s multifaceted performance.

John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Read more of his work at johnserbaatlarge.com or follow him on Twitter: @johnserba.

Watch Serious Men on Netflix